Saturn’s Reign

A Great White Spot storm that raged in 2010 and 2011. Credit: JPL-CALTECH/NASA, SSI. Click to enlarge.

Oct 23, 2019

Saturn is a violent electrical environment.

Recently, planetary scientists announced a new type of storm swirling near Saturn’s North Pole. Robert West from Caltech and JPL says the origins of the storms and how they relate to other weather phenomena on Saturn “are still mysterious.”

The planet Saturn could be thought of as the captain of its own solar system, with a family of 82 moons. Saturn emits more energy than it receives: 2.3 times more, so it is being powered by another source. It is also probable that the interior of the planet has its own heat. There is good evidence that Saturn once existed as an independent body from the Sun. As such, it would have received more energy in the recent past, its power source usurped by the Sun.

Saturn exhibited many changes over the (almost) 40 years since the Voyager spacecraft flew by the giant gas planet and several of its largest moons. Saturn’s magnetosphere grew by more than a million kilometers, contracted, and then started expanding again. Saturn’s B ring “spokes” disappeared and then reappeared. The so-called “Dragon Storm” broke up, moved toward the poles, and then erupted again.

Every so often Saturn breaks out with a “great white spot” three times larger than Earth. Traditional models of Saturn cannot explain such a periodic outburst, but an intense lightning discharge deep in the atmosphere could cause vertical jets similar to the sprites in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Its electrical connection to the Solar System can explain the effects that Cassini discovered on and around Saturn.

The most likely explanation for the storms on Saturn is that they are equivalent to sunspots. As the Sun changes its behavior over the course of a 22 year cycle, the electrical output that connects it with its family of planets varies.

If Saturn’s Great White Spots, Dragon Storm, and ring spokes are driven by the same galactic Birkeland currents that drive the Sun, they should get stronger and closer to the equator as the sunspot cycle oscillates. It appears that is what happened over the past three decades.

Evidence suggests that Saturn was once of greater stature, but was dethroned from its position of prominence in the sky. It was not the tiny pinprick of light that can be seen on dark nights. Rather, it was worshipped as the central luminary, the all-powerful Sun. If that was the case, then its current position in the Solar System is far removed from what it was.

Without going into details that are elaborated elsewhere, that disturbance and rearrangement of planets means that Saturn is the way it is not because of how it was conventionally formed, but because it is closer to being a star than it is to being a planet. Indeed, as our ancestors tell us, it was a star.

Stephen Smith

The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day is generously supported by the Mainwaring Archive Foundation.

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